Time control, and therefore communication has always been a key factor for success in politics. First of all, taking time to build a career (from local politician to the most elevated functions, or in the other side for a few fortunate people). Then, knowing how to manage time and public speaking, especially in the exercise of presidential power, a categorical imperative developed by Jacques Pilhan in the nineties: the famous “scarcity”, which is supposed to create desire, and which appeared to be completely forgotten, since the adoption of the five-year period.
In times of social media and continuous reporting, how do the different candidates – declared or not – to the 2017 presidential election manage their time and so their communication? How to exist on the media scene without getting exhausted before the final race? How to reconcile political time and media time?
DIFFERENT STRATEGIES ARE IN CONFLICT, WITHIN THE RIGHT-WING AS WELL AS WITHIN THE LEFT-WING
On the right-wing, one of the candidates has made the “long-distance race choice”. Alain Juppé started his campaign in August 2014, announcing his candidacy in a short note on his blog, to everyone’s surprise. While opponents and commentators were betting on the exhaustion of the former Prime Minister, he has been the favorite ever since. François Fillon used the same strategy, by announcing in 2012 that he would run for the presidency, by working ostentatiously on his project ever since, and by building himself a presidential reputation. On the contrary, their main opponent decided to wait until the last moment to announce his candidacy. Nicolas Sarkozy had already chosen a late announcement in 2012, by formalizing his candidacy only three months before the first ballot of the presidential election. At that moment, time had been considered as the explanation of his defeat, the outgoing president estimating that if his campaign had lasted one or two more weeks, he would have won against François Hollande (who had begun hi campaign in March, 2011).
On the left-wing, Jean-Luc Mélenchon was the first to declare his presidential ambition, in February, 2016. Nine months later, here he is, as the alternative to François Hollande, while his competitors – Montebourg, Valls, Hamon… – are struggling to escape the polling slump. The lack of certainty concerning the possible candidacy of the outgoing president makes the socialist situation even more complicated. But, precisely, François Hollande wants to maintain control of his timetable and seems imperturbable in front of his supporters’ solicitations, who enjoin him to clarify his intentions as soon as possible. But he won’t tell anyone before mid-December, candidate or not.
As a consequence, for some people (long) time is a weapon that allows them to bring to light – to impose? – the obviousness of their candidacy. But for some others, time is the best weapon against what appears as a political stalemate. Criticized by everyone, François Hollande is convinced that time is working in his favor, by mitigating the consequences of this recent communication errors, by allowing him to rely on the improvement of the employment market, and especially, by letting his competitors, declared or not, waste their efforts in order to accredit the idea that he is the only credible solution, even if he is the default choice.
IN FRONT OF THEM, TWO PERSONALITIES HAVE MADE DIFFERENT CHOICES
First, Marine Le Pen, both permanent and ghost candidate. Since the FN chose to support her candidacy in May, 2011, Marine Le Pen has never left the idea of presidency. In all of her activities, she’s thinking of her goal. Who does remember her declaration on the TF1 set in February, 2016? Only a mere formality for the one who, nevertheless, is becoming more and more discreet, as the campaign is getting louder. Time is not a matter for Marine Le Pen. She must at most be patient, in a context where controversy and failures of both right and left-wings are making, according to opinion polls, her qualification to the second presidential ballot almost certain. And if it doesn’t work this time, she will keep her presidential purposes for the next campaign… After all, time is in her favor.
Another one has been campaigning for a long time without being a declared candidate. Will Emmanuel Macron be the one who will make all political rules of good behavior obsolete? The former Minister for Economic Affairs, unknown of the public two years ago, never elected and with a detrimental reputation thanks to his past of banker at Rothschild in a country that hates finance, is however getting ahead of everyone: not only the outgoing president, but also all those who could pretend to take over the presidency, right or left-wing included. Center of the media attention and UFO phenomenon, Emmanuel Macron is defying time’s laws, by creating in only six months a political movement gathering 92 000 subscribers, by designating hundreds of managers on the territory, by launching a huge canvassing campaign, by organizing crowded meetings… stop here ! But while time didn’t seem to influence him, he has been caught by those who urged him to accelerate, even more, and to formalize his candidacy as soon as possible. And so he does, choosing the day just before the last debate of the Republicans election and the day of the COP22, when François Hollande thought he could use it to claim his presidential stature and to capitalize on one of his great successes, the Paris Agreement on climate. The way he undermined the international campaign of François Hollande last September by announcing his resignation already testified of his ability to play with media time. Would Emmanuel Macron be the new time strategist, or at least its tactician master?
Six months away from the presidential election, everything can still move, and it is too early to award the time management prize. But we will have a first answer on the 20th of November, and even more on the 27th, with the result of the Republicans election! Let’s give some time to time, as François Mitterrand liked to say, before concluding.